Moving countries is a big change as you need to consider several factors such as accommodation, finances, safety and so on. Relocating to Saudi Arabia can also generally bring about a certain level of nervousness.
However, keep in mind that Saudi Arabia has one of the largest economies in the Middle East and as a result this oil rich country is not short on foreign workers who have relocated there. Saudi Arabia’s appeal is further enhanced by attractive salary packages, career opportunities, no personal tax and the locals just like most Arabs in the region are known to be hospitable. Nevertheless abiding by their conservative practices is of great importance to Saudi’s and the government alike. Below is a brief guideline to ensure a smooth transition from your home country to Saudi Arabia.
Living in Saudi Arabia can come as a bit of a culture shock to many. Since it is an Islamic nation, it follows sharia law which is conservative in nature. Therefore following the dress code, not consuming alcohol and conducting yourself in a decent manner in public is just some of the many norms people living there are expected to follow. Public display of other religious practices other than Islam and symbols are also prohibited.
The government has also set in place a religious police which ensures the people are abiding by the norms of the country. Also expect most public places to be segregated by gender as mixing of genders is forbidden. Failing to abide by the norms of the country can get you into legal trouble. This is why it is absolutely necessary that you conduct a thorough research of the cultural norms and practices before moving because they may differ drastically from your home country.
Banking in Saudi Arabia
Opening a bank account in Saudi Arabia requires a bit of paper work. You can’t open one without a residence visa and a NOC from your employer. Your dependents also will not be able to open an account without your consent as you become their sponsor.
It is also important to remember that since Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country, it has the option of opening up Sharia compliant bank account which works a little differently from the conventional bank accounts. Islamic finance prohibit interest, therefore the bank and customer gain profits through investment.
If you still prefer to continue banking conventionally, those options are also readily available. There is also an abundance of local and international banks in Saudi Arabia and you are likely to find the bank you prefer.
Women living in Saudi Arabia
Women are generally more restricted in Saudi Arabia than men. They have to get the permission from their fathers or husbands to exit the country and also note that minor children will need the consent of their father to leave Saudi Arabia. Moreover, women are also not allowed to drive and a driver or car service maybe needed to move around.
The dress code for women is also conservative where they cannot wear anything revealing. However the level of strictness depends on the city you reside it. Some cities such as Jeddah are more liberal than others such a Riyadh.
Sending your kids to Schools in Saudi Arabia
The schools in Saudi Arabia are divided into two main categories, ones where only Saudi locals can be enrolled in and international schools, where children from other nationalities can be enrolled. Saudi Arabia has a vast variety of primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. The quality of schooling is good and you can easily find schools with educational systems which are similar to your home country to suit your child’s need andjust like all public places, schools are also usually segregated.
It is also advisable to negotiate the payment of your children’s tuition under your employment contract as international school can be very expensive in Saudi Arabia. Also most expats tend to send their children abroad for higher education as universities abroad are more competitive.
Picking your ideal home
Most expats opt for renting property as until recently it was prohibited for foreigners to purchase housing in Saudi Arabia. However, banks now provide multiple home finance options for those expats who wish to purchase their own home.
Luckily there are also all sorts of properties you can rent depending on your requirements and how long you plan to stay. Most foreigners living long-term in Saudi Arabia opt to live in compounds or gated communities as these only provide all the amenities you need but also a sense of community. These compounds are very large in size, generally very secure and consist mainly of expats. Social restrictions within these compounds is minimized considerably compared to rest of the country. This is mainly because the religious police is prohibited within the confinements of these gated communities.
Helpful tips when selecting a compound is pick one which best suits you or your family needs as it is the place where you will spend most of your time. Look for communities with activities and clubs which you will enjoy and ask around for recommendations.
Lastly, Saudi Arabia has ample indoor shopping malls with zero sales tax making it a shopping heaven. There is also a range of dining options but you are unlikely to find pork and alcohol being served. Moving to Saudi Arabia can a big change but if you are looking for great career opportunities, no taxes and a rich cultural experience, it is definitely an option worth looking into.